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Indian and Pakistani students sing songs, celebrate birthday and wish for a peaceful future: 14th IndoPak Classroom Connect


Indian and Pakistani students sing songs, celebrate birthday and wish for a peaceful future: 14th IndoPak Classroom Connect

Surat/Karachi: Amid the turbulent political relations between the two countries, people on both sides still looked for ways to build bridges to remove enmity and to break stereotypes as a process of peacebuilding. In its line of peacebuilding through programs of peace education in schools across Pakistan and India, Aaghaz-e-Dosti organised its 14th “Classroom to Classroom connect” program between students of Karachi city of Pakistan and Surat city of India on 5th May 2018.   

This classroom connect program was conducted in collaboration with Akhil Hind Mahila Parishad, Bruhad Surat branch from the Indian side and L2L (Learn to Learn), a Karachi-based commercial alternative school from Pakistan side. This classroom connection program connected around 150 students. On the Indian side, students were participants of summer camp in the centre while in Pakistan, students were participants of an activity learning school. The session was coordinated by Sagar Papneja of Aaghaz-e-Dosti Surat Chapter and Adnan Kudiya, a Karachi-based educator and activist working with #MainBolunGa, a social cause from Pakistan.

Before the connection was initiated, students on the Indian side were asked for their opinion about the neighbor country and they voiced some of the stereotypes and misconceptions. When asked for the source of their knowledge, they said parents, movies, and news. The coordinators gave them an analogy that they choose their own best friends and that their parents never tell them whom to befriend so then why shouldn’t they apply it here, in this case? They should choose their own friends and even foes by analyzing, talking to them and then deciding. They agreed.

The session began with national anthems of both the nations. It was followed by a discussion on summer vacations. The students interacted for an hour and asked questions about favorite food, movie actors, songs, school vacations, and much more only to realize that on both the sides everything was same.

During the session, students of both sides revealed their likes and dislikes and found that both sides loved many things similar. An Indian student asked to Pakistani students ‘Who is your favorite hero?’. Pakistani students replied ‘Fawad Khan, Hrithik Roshan, Tiger Shroff, Salman Khan’. Then Indian student wondered ‘Fawad Khan! Tiger Shroff! they all are our favorites as well’. Another Indian student named Jhanvi asked ‘Karachi me kya famous hai?’ for which she got reply from a Pakistani student ‘Karachi ko city of lights kehte hain’ to which all Indian students became happy and eager to know more.

Then both sides together found that they both love faluda dessert, Afridi, Dhoni and Virat so much. In the lighter mode, both sides of students expressed how they hate school uniforms.

In a surprise move, when Pakistani sides of students got to know about the birthday of a student on Indian side, they wished and sang a birthday song for the Indian student that made the whole environment very emotional. During the concluding time of the session, students of both sides requested to extend the session for more time and also sang “swag se karenge sabka swagat” and “bahubali” song for each other. By the end of the session, the kids befriended each other and realized that across border the culture is same. They were no-more enemies rather friends with some positive future ahead. Their glowing faces with this first ever experience were expressing their happiness after meeting their peers.

Aaghaz-e-Dosti, a collaborative peace initiative of two voluntary organisations – Mission Bhartiyam (India) & Hum Sab Aik Hain (Pakistan), believes that students are future of these countries and have all the potential to build new bridges of peace and reconciliation that would pave the way for future.

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“They do not resemble the stereotypes we were taught”: 11th Indo-Pak Classroom Connect

indopak classroom connect by aaghaz e dosti

When Aaghaz-e-Dosti’s 11th Indo-Pak Classroom Connect, brought together students of National School and College of Modern Sciences (Mandi Faizabad, Nankana Sahib in Punjab, the birth place of Guru Nanak) and Ecole Mondiale World School, Mumbai, we found ourselves struggling with the same old questions.

With deep fissures of distrust between two neighbors in conflict, it only takes discussions around bollywood, TV shows, food, visa issues, festivals, cricket, Urdu-Hindi, and social media (for people on both sides of the border) to move through the connecting back process. These discussions not only help heal divides, give the people common grounds, but also serve as platforms enabling “people” to come back together as friends, when “governments” are uncertain and unwilling. This all too much of discussion required of us skype connection on both sides.

The session was organized and coordinated by Raza Khan, Lahore Chapter Head of Aaghaz-e-Dosti on April 4, 2017 who travelled from Lahore to Nankana Sahib struggling with limited ground resources. Aroon Arthur and Farooq Ishraq facilitated in putting the event together. The other side was being facilitated by Tulika Bathija, educator and teacher at Ecole Mondiale World School, Mumbai.

17858117_1413304648692025_1229879787_nThe students from India sang ‘Channa Mereya’ from the Bollywood movie Ae Dil Hai Mushkil. Pakistani children discussed about all kinds of Indian TV shows and films that they have watched: Salman and Tiger Shroff being their hot favourites. Fawad Khan, the Indian students said, was their heartthrob. They both agreed that ban on cross border cinema is absolutely ridiculous and they cannot imagine living in a world where they cannot see each other’s films and TV shows. Were our governments listening?

It is very hard not to be overwhelmed by conversations like this that foster dialog and try to bring people together. When Indian children asked what you like about India, interestingly Pakistanis named all Hindu festivals (Holi, Diwali, Raksha Bandhan) that they love to celebrate as well — Holi being their absolute favorite.

There were also discussions on food, biryani, streets, and least expected — pets and animals! When Pakistani kids shared that they had goats and rabbits for pets, there was a wild cooing and mooing on the Indian side. The Indian students might apply for a VISA to Pakistan for the sole purpose of pet-patting. What do you like about Pakistan? “We like Pakistani rabbits!”, they said.                                                                                                                                   

While Indian kids stumbled and fumbled with Urdu, they were sporting and confident. Pakistani kids responded kindly. The students from Pakistan shared that the Muhammad Iqbal, author of ‘Saare Jahan se Accha Hindustan Hamara’ is the national poet of Pakistan, also known as poet of the east.

As the session was winding down, the students expressed they would love to reconnect and asked Raza Khan when he would be back. One of them said, “Raza Sir, none of them resembled the stereotypes I were taught”.

It was a two-way learning process for the students as well as the mentors of the session. Raza said, “For the students, it was an emotional end of a Skype conversation. I have asked the students to put into words, what impact the connection had on their day. For I know, their response had a greater impact on mine.”

Report by: Tulika Bathija and Aliya Harir

Playing games, singing songs and discovering mutual crushes: 8th Indo-Pak Classroom Connect

In Aaghaz-e-Dosti’s 8th Indo-Pak Classroom Connect, two organisations – Project KHEL (Lucknow, India) and Zindagi Trust (Karachi) striving for quality education for underprivileged students connected to facilitate children or leaders of tomorrow in an environment which is beyond the borders of mistrust, miscommunication and hatred.

These sessions called Indo-Pak Classroom Connects are one of the unique peace education initiative of Aaghaz-e-Dosti to utilize ICT, the virtual world where there are no visa restriction to overcome the barriers of lack of communication and understanding. We, at Aaghaz-e-Dosti, believe that it is the lack of communication as well as a lot of miscommunication that sustains the Indo-Pak conflict. In these sessions, we connect students of Indian and Pakistani schools, educational institutions through video conferencing and facilitate an interaction, an environment wherein they can understand life, culture and people across the border and dispel stereotypes.

For 8th Indo-Pak Classroom connect, Aaghaz-e-Dosti joined hands with two education organisations – Project KHEL and Zindagi Trust.  Project KHEL (KHEL is an acronym for Kids Holistic Education and Life-Skills) is a lucknow based non-profit, that uses play and outdoor activities to take education outside the classroom for children from low income backgrounds in and around Lucknow city. Zindagi Trust is a non profit organization working on reforms in two Government schools in Pakistan- SMB Fatima Jinnah and Khatoone Pakistan School. It has brought infra structural and academic changes and through co curricular activities has made these schools as model for public as well as private schools. The founding president of this school is Shehzad Roy, a nationally known singer. 

The interaction was conducted on 27 February 2017. Project Khel had conducted the session in Modern Madrasa in Bhikampur while the Karachi session by Zindagi Trust was conducted in one of its adopted government schools – SMB Fatima Jinnah Government Girls Secondary School. 

Angana Prasad, one of the co-ordinators of the session from Project KHEL, stated that while this session was planned and organized on a very short notice but when they shared that a session with Pakistani students has been scheduled, it was not just students who were enthusiastic to interact.

The session was conducted in Hindi/Urdu. The students talked about culture, food, festivals and popular culture. They rejoiced at the similarities as well as used this platform to build an understanding about any difference.

Angana Prasad shared that during a discussion on festivals, a student explained to her peers in Pakistan about Maha Shivratri and while doing so, drew analogy between vrat and roza.

The students played a concentration game. They sang songs together. The Pakistan side sang their national song “Dil Dil Pakistan, Jan Jan Pakistan”.  

Angana Prasad said, “The students spoke about culture, food, played games, sang songs and more importantly, understood how across the borders, we’re still the same people crushing on Hrithik Roshan and Shahid Afridi.”  

On both sides, reports Angana Prasad and Shahnaz Hunzai, the students thoroughly enjoyed interacting with each other, discovering a country beyond the borders which is just like their own.

Report written by

Devika Mittal based on inputs by Angana Prasad (Project Khel) and Shahnaz Hunzai (Zindagi Trust) 

Kya Dilli Kya Karachi: 6th IndoPak Classroom Connect

indopak classroom connect peace session

“The 6th Indo-Pak Classroom Connect” of Aaghaz-e-Dosti connected school students of Gyan Mandir Public School (Delhi, India) and Evergreen Schooling Systems Fatima Jinnah Campus (Lyari, Karachi in Pakistan).

The students were a mixed group from Grades 3 to 7. On both sides, the students were very enthusiastic to interact with their peers across the border. This session was co-ordinated by Usama Palla of Evergreen Schooling System in Pakistan and Devika Mittal and Madhulika Narasimhan in India. Ms. Anju Anand was the teacher co-ordinator from Gyan Mandir Public School.

Even before the commencement of the formal session, in the test call, when the Indian and Pakistan co-ordinators chatted, an Indian student expressed his surprise to the Indian Co-ordinator. He asked, “How was the Pakistani co-ordinator able to converse in Hindi? How did he learn Hindi?” He was informed that the spoken Hindi of India and spoken Urdu of Pakistan is very similar. Due to the popularity of Indian Movies in Pakistan also ensures that Pakistanis well understand Hindi. 

The entire session was conducted in Hindi/Urdu. In the session, students began by exploring each other’s school – languages taught, about teachers and then moved on to explore each other’s country, culture and everyday life.

A Pakistani student told Indian students about Karachi, it’s culture. An Indian student had recited a beautiful poem about India, it’s rich culture and reasons for India being a source of great Pride for Indians.  

When an Indian student asked what Pakistanis like most about India, among the most prompt response was “Indian Drame”. On further inquiry about their favorite serials, the Pakistani students listed to their Indian counterparts’ surprise, Tarak Mehta Ka Ulta Chasma and Bal Veer among other serials. 

When a Pakistani student asked the Indian students about their favorite Pakistani cricketer, many Indian students immediately replied “Shahid Afridi”. Similarly, when Pakistani students were asked about their favorite Indian cricketer, they replied “Virat Kohli”.

Indian Students expressed their love for Atif Aslam with one student singing “Tajdar e Haram” and Pakistani students expressed their love for Arijit Singh.

An Indian student played on casio while others sang Saare Jahan Se Acha written by Allama Iqbal, the National Poet of Pakistan. This was followed by Pakistani students singing Dil Dil Pakistan.

In conclusion, the students of both India and Pakistan had sung their respective national anthems and both sides stood and paid respect for each other’s anthem.

The Teacher Co-ordinator of Indian School, Ms. Anju Anand expressed their desire to be connected to the Pakistani school and explore and conduct more of such peace activities.

After the session, a Pakistani student expressed surprise to learn the extent to which Indians and Pakistanis are similar. Mr. Usama Palla regarded this expression to be a source of hope and inspiration to continue to do such activities to nurture a peace generation.

Message of Peace from Land of Gandhi to Land of Bacha Khan: 5th IndoPak Classroom Connect


In the fifth Indo-Pak Classroom connect, students of Gujarat and KPK interacted through video conferencing. Aaghaz-e-Dosti through these sessions that connects an Indian and a Pakistani Classroom through video conferencing and facilitates a platform for students to explore life and culture across the border, to dispel stereotypes and strengthen people to people contact and their desire for peace.

On 26 January 2017, Aaghaz-e-Dosti conducted its fifth Indo-Pak Classroom connect involved children of Vicharata Samuday Samarthan Manch (VSSM), an organisation based in Ahmedabad, Gujarat (India) to children. These children hailed from different tribes and nomadic groups of Gujarat. In the connect, they were connected to students of Bacha Khan School of Nauthia, Peshawar – KPK (Pakistan).

This session happened on 26th January which is the Republic Day of India and sought to highlight the values of our country, our constitution which teaches peace, harmony, fraternity and the larger goals of humanity.

This session was moderated by Maulikraj Shrimali of VSSM and by Faheem Ullah of Bacha Khan School. In the session, the students explored both similarities and uniqueness.  Pakistani students talked about the love for Indian Movies and songs in Pakistan. They asked questions around the Gujarati culture. Simiarly Indian students asked questions about Pakistan, it’s food and festivals.

In the session, the students also sang their respective national anthems and both stood and paid respect to each other’s national anthem, highlighting the fact that love for one’s country does not and should not mean hating another. We can co-exist in peace and with respect for each other.

There were media persons present on the Indian side and one of them asked the Pakistani students if they believe that Indians and Pakistanis are friends. A Pakistani student said, “We are not friends, we are a family.”

After the session, on both sides, the students shared their experience and learning.

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